Shareef O’Neal, Shaq‘s son, had a family-like relationship with Kobe Bryant. Bryant’s daughter frequently played basketball against O’Neal’s sister, so the two would watch games together and riff about what’s going on in their lives. Bryant always checked in on O’Neal, who is now a player at LSU. The last time he did so was on the morning of his tragic, sudden death. O’Neal recently opened up about that morning in an interview with Bleacher Report. He talked about his relationship with Bryant and the emotions he felt on that fateful day.
O’Neal received a message from Bryant the morning of his death
On January 26 at 8:19 a.m. Shareef O’Neal received an Instagram message from Kobe Bryant. The message was simple. “You good fam?” Bryant asked. He was known to check in on O’Neal from time to time. An hour after that message was sent, Bryant, his daughter Gigi, and eight others perished in a devastating helicopter crash.
Kobe and Gigi Bryant were on their way to a basketball tournament in which Gigi’s team was scheduled to play O’Neal’s sister Me’arah in the early afternoon. O’Neal would have seen Bryant that day had the helicopter accident not happened.
O’Neal replied to Bryant’s message a few hours later and asked Bryant how he was doing. Sadly, he would never receive an answer.
O’Neal said Bryant’s message is now his phone background
O’Neal told Bleacher Report he didn’t believe the news at first. He said he messaged Bryant again to see if he would answer. It wasn’t until O’Neal’s mother told him the news was true that it truly sunk in. O’Neal immediately broke down and cried.
“I personally knew Kobe. He had a big impact on me and my family, and that’s what always sticks in my mind,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal said he made Bryant’s final message his phone background. He looks at it every day and O’Neal said it motivates him daily. People approached O’Neal at the Staples Center that day saying he received the last message Bryant ever sent, and that made him break down and cry all over again.
Bryant’s final text message shows his true character
Kobe Bryant was a giver in his post-NBA life. Now that the spotlight was off him as a professional athlete, he devoted his time to his family, and especially his daughter Gigi.
If Bryant’s message to O’Neal was, in fact, his final one, it will serve as a perfect testament to Bryant’s unselfish character. He was one of the most successful and famous figures in LA at the time of his death. Bryant was still a busy man in retirement, but he still took time out of his day to check in on people he loved, like O’Neal.
He wasn’t responding to a previous message or asking O’Neal a glaring question. He was just checking in. Bryant cared about those who looked up to him, and he wanted to help them in any way he could. A simple, three-word message might’ve taken five seconds to craft, but it meant the world to O’Neal.
O’Neal will forever remember Bryant as an icon and role model. His phone background of Bryant’s final message will forever be a testament to the great life Kobe Bryant lived and the better life he wanted for others he loved.